Early Friday morning, I made my way over the mountains of Vermont to a small farm in Cambridge, New York. It is the home of Five-Time-New-York-Times-Best-Selling-Author-Jon-Katz.
I think that he and I have something called a symbiotic relationship. Hang on….
Nope. Wikipedia is implying that a symbiotic relationship would mean Five-Time-New-York-Times-Best-Selling-Author-Jon-Katz and I would both die if one or the other of us no longer existed.
I do not think that this would happen. I mean, he would be sad and all, but … wait…
Wikipedia has told me that we are mutualistic.
Which is all about two people of different species have a relationship where both benefit.
Yes, we are of different species.
He is a Five-Time New York Times best-selling author.
I, on the other hand, am not.
And we are mutualistic because he mentors me as a part of our friendship, which is an odd and rather complicated combination of him issuing commandments about my writing, me resisting because I don’t quite understand what he is telling me, and then I finally get it and write something better than I wrote before…
And then we both claim credit.
So anyway, Jon and his wife, the beautiful and talented and just all-around radiatingly awesome artist and human, Maria Wulf hosted an Open House at Bedlam Farm (which is their farm, which is good because if it was not, it would have been wHierd).
And so I went to help and be, because not only do I love Jon and Maria, but I also belong to an on-line creative group that Jon started a little over a year ago, called The Open Group for Bedlam Farm.
And many of this group’s 700-plus members were traveling from near and far to be at the Open House.
Writers, painters, bloggers, lyricists, photographers, weavers, potters, fabric artists, calligraphers…
All of them members of this magical place, on Facebook, where people come together to share their creative work, and encourage each other along the creative path.
When Jon started it, he said ‘Bring your good stuff here.’
So we did.
On Saturday morning, Jon and I headed down to the Round House Cafe while Maria was doing final touches in the Art Barn, where wall hangings and photographs and paintings and scarves made from vintage handkerchiefs awaited their public unveilings.
We were excited. We were meeting people from the Open Group. Some local, some from very far away. And when we arrived, there was a man crossing the street toward us. He looked familiar.
And then I recognized him.
Prolific contributor to the Group. I had been reading his poems nearly every morning for the better part of a year.
I was so happy to finally meet him.
Jon and he hugged, he and I hugged. Then we all went inside.
And there were more people there, and more and more and more showed up in a swirl of squeals and shouts and happiness.
And from the Roundhouse Cafe, we headed back to Bedlam Farm.
Hundreds of people arrived throughout the day, and so many great things happened it would be hard to fit them all here (because Jon Katz says I have to watch my word count). But I can summarize by saying it was a powerful, magical, coming together of good humans.
And something kept niggling in my brain.
This all happened as a result of an on-line group.
I know, right.
Why did my brain keep coming back to that?
And I finally realized…
Because the internet can be a nasty place.
Nastiness on Facebook and Twitter and Pouter and Pisser…
Okay, maybe those last two are made up.
Our return keys get hit too quickly when we are angry, and we forget that we really shouldn’t post something that we don’t want everyone else to see. We forget basic manners, and that our parents taught us to play nice with others.
The internet can be like a middle school playground after budget cuts.
Not enough monitors and too many bullies.
It’s so prevalent – aggression, passive-agressivenes, bullying, self-righteousness – that we’ve come to expect it.
And, you know what?
What could be a great connector has become, in all too many cases, yet another tool to divide us and send us back to our own corners.
And it feels like it’s everywhere on-line.
Except it isn’t.
On Friday and Saturday, I saw something so much better.
Someone would cry unabashedly out of joy, and the person standing next to them would hug them close and say, “I know.” and they would both be laughing at themselves a few seconds later.
Someone would arrive and look unsure and, from the crowd, you would hear the shout of a person’s name. A huge smile would break out across the newbie’s face and poof, welcomed. Just like that.
I even ran to at least one of them, Lassie-Come-Home-style.
Who does that?
Apparently me, that’s who.
And all this had grown out of an on-line place.
Someplace I, a committed non-joiner, look forward to visiting each day.
A place filled with people who inspire me, whether I ever meet them or I don’t.
A place where I laugh with people, and am in awe with people, and trust the input and feedback from people.
And a place where I have made real friends.
And the reality of it all struck so many of us as, ‘Holy crap how did such goodness happen in this world that serves up poop sandwiches so often?’
Okay, maybe everyone wasn’t thinking of poop sandwiches.
There is something else too.
Something totally connect-y that hit me as I was hugging Tom Atkins goodbye.
He asked if I would see him again the next day and I said I wouldn’t, that I was heading home Saturday night.
So he hugged me and I blurted out, “See you tomorrow!”
And he looked puzzled because I had just said I was going home.
“I know.” I said “But I will see you tomorrow. I’ll read your morning poem.”
And he smiled and quietly nodded.
Because it is true. When good folks use the internet for good stuff, and when we trust each other and encourage each other, we get to see each other and hear from each other all the time. There’s always a tomorrow. There doesn’t need to be a good-bye.
Maybe Five-Time-New-York-Times-Best-Selling-Author-Jon-Katz knew that when he began the group.
Maybe he didn’t.
But what I experienced this weekend – which was powerful and profound – has brought me back to one of my basic tenants.
Good people attract good people.
I don’t know how, and I can’t explain the physics or spiritual force that makes it happen.
But I know I’ve seen it time and time again.
And now I have been shown – through hugs and tears and squeals and whoops and hollers of joy – that it happens in the on-line world too.
Which is pretty dang cool.
Because good can triumph over poop, even on the internet, that’s why.
And now I am over my word limit.
And I don’t even care.
Thanks for readin’.
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